• 55°

Realignment will change teams to regional format

Once there were districts. Once there were divisions. Now thereare regions.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has gone tostate-wide regions for football playoffs, starting with the 2001-02school year. In football, it means the top four teams in eachregion will advance to the state playoffs compared to just twounder the old division format.

It sounds a little confusing but perhaps the average fan canlearn the system in two years before it changes again. Basketballwill remain in a division format. Progress can be amusing,frustrating, rewarding, perplexing, confounding and down rightcussable.

First, let’s take a look at Brookhaven’s membership in Region6-4A. The Panthers will have some familiar foes in McComb, SouthPike, Lawrence County and Terry. Newcomers are Port Gibson andRaymond. Gone to 3A are the Crystal Springs Tigers who desperatelyneeded some relief from their weekly bashings on the footballfield. Port Gibson is a former 6-4A member who spent the last twoyears in 6-3A.

Division 6-4A has a right to boast and flex its footballmuscles. The last two state champions, Lawrence County and McComb,are proof of just how tough the division really is.

Congratulations to Coach Lee Bramlett and his McComb Tigers!They thrived on defense and won on defense, shutting out previouslyunbeaten Laurel in the South State title game and corrallinghigh-powered Clarksdale last Saturday night in the championshiptest, by identical 14-zip scores.

Final realignment will be approved by the MHSAA board ofdistrict directors Dec. 13. Raymond appealed its membership inDivision 6-4A last time and got a reprieve. Columbia was anotherpotential member but the Wildcats have eased into 3A by awhisker.

Region 6-3A will remain the same with the exception of PortGibson’s graduation to 4A and Crystal Springs finding a better homein 3A. Franklin County, Amite County, Wilkinson County, Hazlehurst,North Pike and Jefferson County remain in the mix.

In other words, Franklin County will dominate 6-3A baseballagain and North Pike will have a chance at finishing runner-up.Wilkinson and Amite have dominated in football the last few yearsbut two more teams at least have a shot at making the stateplayoffs. Basketball is up for grabs.

Consider Region 6-2A. Longtime members Loyd Star and Wesson willbe joined by St. Andrew’s, Hinds AHS, McLaurin and St. Joseph ofMadison. Natchez Cathedral has returned to 1A and Richland hasclimbed to 3A.

Richland won the Division 6-2A football title this year so theRangers won’t be missed.

Class 1A is where major changes have taken place. The oldDivision 7-1A will become part of Region 4. Bogue Chitto,Enterprise, West Lincoln, Dexter and Salem have some new playmatesin Cathedral, St. Aloysius, Stringer, Mt. Olive and Mize, thereigning Class 1A state football champion.

Football was tough enough with Cathedral and Dexter dominating7-1A for many years. Mize, Mt. Olive and Stringer are recognizedbest for their gridiron muscles.

Some coaches in Region 4 might be tempted to play an independentschedule or take an early retirement. To say the least, it will bedifficult to finish as the fourth place team and make the playoffs.The bus trips will be monumental, too, Cathedral is 60 miles fromits closest region opponent.

What happens next is No. 4 playing No. 1 out of Region 3 in theopening round of the state 1A playoffs next November. Not muchsuspense there, is it?

Region 3-1A includes Puckett, Pelahatchie, Pisgah, Lake,Sebastopol, Union, Thomastown, Edinburg, Nanih Waiya andNoxapater.

Some noteworthy changes across the Magnolia State. Class 5AJackson Provine has dipped to 4A and will compete in Region 4 withPearl, Wingfield, Jim Hill, Bailey, Lanier and Canton.

No surprise here. Petal and Oak Grove have grown to 5A. They arelumped with Meridian, Hattiesburg, Hancock, Brandon, Natchez andWayne County in Region 3-5A.

Pity Natchez. Talk about road warriors, the Bulldogs will needwheels for feet when they play road games. The Natchez footballprogram is struggling and the future doesn’t look promising whenyou pause and measure the opponents.